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Viscount Astor: If one follows the logic of this argument one could say that on that basis the Secretary of State could claim that any firework was a risk. After all, a sparkler might be a risk if you do the wrong thing. Following that analogy, the power could be used to remove fireworks totally from this country.

Lord Haskel: Perhaps I may remind the noble Viscount of what I said previously. I must make it clear

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that there is no intention that the power should be used in trivial circumstances. What the noble Viscount has described I would consider trivial circumstances.

Viscount Astor: What is "trivial"? "Trivial" is not in the Bill. We are attempting in this Committee to pass a Bill that might become an Act and could become law. I defer on the legal points to my noble friends on my left. I cannot believe that we can gallop through this in this extraordinary manner by the Minister saying, "Do not worry, we will decide what to do in the future". I do not think this is what Parliament or the Committee stage is for.

Lord Renton: If fireworks are used safely then there is only a minimal risk. There is no need to say also that they are used safely when there is no risk. It is a very small drafting point, but it seems to me that the words "no risk, or" are, from a purely drafting point of view, unnecessary.

Lord Gisborough: If the Secretary of State failed to ban, for example, sparklers, and a sparkler committed damage to somebody, would there not be a case against the Secretary of State for damages because there had been a risk and he was under an obligation to deal with it because he is not allowed to have any risk?

Lord Monkswell: Perhaps I may intervene. It seems to me that a number of noble Lords are contributing who were not present for the Second Reading debate when it was made clear by me, as a sponsor of the Bill, repeating assurances given by the honourable Member who introduced this Private Member's Bill in the other place, that it was not part of our aim to restrict people's enjoyment of fireworks. Our primary concern relates to dangerous fireworks. One of the salient points about the Bill is that it seeks to ensure that we get some training provision in the use of particularly dangerous fireworks.

I hope that we shall hear no more about the Government planning to ban sparklers. This is not part of the agenda at all.

Lord Henley: The reason we are going through the Committee stage in this manner is that many noble Lords, whether or not they took part in the Second Reading debate--as noble Lords will be aware, I did take part in the Second Reading debate--have considerable concerns about the drafting of the Bill. That is why my noble friend is moving amendments of this kind. We are worried about the powers that the Bill gives the Secretary of State. A Secretary of State who has a slightly different attitude to fireworks from that of the noble Lord could take things a lot further than the noble Lord or the Minister has suggested.

Lord Monkswell: Perhaps I may make two points in response. Yes, it is important that we scrutinise the Bill carefully, but the assurances given by the sponsor of the Bill in the other place and by myself were reiterated by the Minister in the other place and by the Front Bench spokesman at Second Reading.

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With regard to the amendment, I must repeat the point made by my noble friend on the Front Bench because I fear that the amendment would result in a lack of clarity. There is a risk of judicial review striking down some of the provisions which the Secretary of State might make which were specific rather than merely tending to reduce the risk. That is our concern. What may appear to be a simple drafting amendment may turn out to have unwarranted consequential effects.

Lord Mancroft: I was not present at Second Reading, but I have read the report of the Second Reading debate carefully, and particularly the noble Lord's speech. Indeed, it would have been wrong to speak today in Committee without having done so.

I should very much like to see the Bill on the statute book but, as we have gone through this Committee stage--it seems like a lifetime--it has become increasingly clear to me that the Bill is a frightful muddle. I believe that that is clear to the Committee as a whole. I listened carefully to what the noble Lord said about this small amendment relating to the words "no risk" and why they should or should not be in the Bill. I also listened carefully to what the noble Lord on the Front Bench said but, from where I am sitting, the explanations do not make any sense at all. I am concerned because it is just not possible to use fireworks with "no risk" at all. Leaving the Bill as it stands puts the enjoyment of fireworks--the other side of the coin--itself at risk. It would be virtually impossible to have a firework party without any risk.

We need to try to strike a balance because, if we do not achieve a balance in the Bill, it cannot get onto the statute book. We must find that middle road. During the past few minutes, it has become increasingly clear that the Bill is not correctly drafted and that it cannot go forward onto the statute book in this state. I refer not so much to what the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, said--I could understand and see what he was getting at--but to the explanation for not accepting the amendment which came from his noble friend on the Front Bench. I shall read the noble Lord's words carefully tomorrow in Hansard, but to me they were absolutely illogical. I simply could not see what he was getting at. It seems to me that the amendment improves the Bill, which is what we are after.

Lord Kimball: The noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, was kind enough to say that, in moving these amendments, we have done everything possible to facilitate the passage of the Bill. We have moved them all briskly. However, we are now running out of the time allocated to us and we have managed to cover only four amendments. That emphasises the genuine concern on this side of the Committee and the failure of the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, to accept any of our amendments. We shall have to return to this but, for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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Lord Boardman moved Amendment No. 5:


Page 2, line 1, leave out ("or distress").

The noble Lord said: This amendment stands in my name and that of the noble Lord, Lord Kimball. It deals with a small point, but I must remind the Committee that it comes against the background to the Bill that we debated earlier. The Secretary of State may make regulations and those regulations may impose almost any penalty for almost any conduct relating to anything which might be even remotely connected to fireworks or whatever other objects are referred to as "like fireworks". The penalties can amount to six months' imprisonment. Although my amendment is small, it must be viewed against the larger implications of the Bill.

The amendment seeks to leave out the words "or distress" from Clause 2. It relates to distress caused to animals. I accept, of course, that anything that causes the death of, or injury to, an animal, is to be deplored. It is right that the Secretary of State should make regulations about that. However, distress is a different matter. "Distress" cannot easily be defined. Many animals suffer distress when fireworks go off or, indeed, when there are bangs from whatever cause. Anyone who has any care for animals ensures that on those occasions when they know that fireworks will be let off, such as 5th November, animals are brought indoors. I have a dog that goes under the table and I make sure that the curtains are drawn. I agree that the animals are not entirely happy at the time although they are fine afterwards. However, it would be wrong to make holding a firework party a criminal offence. It would enable animal rights campaigners to require prosecutions to be brought against anyone with a dog in such circumstances.

In the village where I live, the Bill, if unamended, would mean that it would be impossible to have any fireworks parties at any time, including on 5th November, because of the danger that some dogs, including one of mine, could be said to have suffered "distress". The passing of this provision would mean that firework displays would be banned and that a dog owner would suffer the possibility of severe penalties which, although ill defined in this Bill and left to regulations, could include six months' imprisonment. I hope that the words "or distress" can be struck from the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Henley: I rise briefly to offer my support to the amendment. The words "or distress" go too far. Indeed, it is not clear what the phrase might mean. It might be that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Advocate, who has been offering a degree of legal advice to the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, might be able to offer some advice either directly to the Committee or indirectly through the noble Lord, Lord Haskel, about what the words "or distress" mean and whether there have been any previous court decisions, either in this country or north of the Border, which can guide us about how the courts might interpret those words. I did not like them when

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I read them in the Bill because I believe that they go too far. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, will be prepared to accept at least this amendment.


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